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Field Notes From
Istanbul on Edge

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On Assignment
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From Author
Rick Gore

On Assignment

View Field Notes
From Photographer Alex Webb

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Todd James (top), and Bert Fox


On Assignment On Assignment On Assignment
Istanbul on Edge

Field Notes From Photographer
Alex Webb
Best Worst Quirkiest

I have always been intrigued by borders as places where cultures merge. Sometimes they fuse, and sometimes they remain distinct. For me, Istanbul turned out to be a border city that encompasses both Asia and Europe, the ancient and the modern, the religious and the secular. As I wandered the narrow twisting streets of the Fatih district, I felt like I was in the realm of the Ottomans. On the western edge of the city, in the bitter rain and snow of winter, I seemed to be in Barcelona. And around the Eyüp Mosque, the burial place of Muhammad’s flag bearer, I was immersed in Islam. Istanbul’s blend of civilizations and its cacophony of images fascinated and inspired me.

The people of Armutlu invited me to join a traditional wedding. I was looking forward to photographing a joyful event, but when I arrived in this working-class community, I met only faces of woe. The wedding had been canceled because a local man had been murdered. Instead of photographing a celebration, I found myself following wailing mourners, very aware that I was an outsider. I uneasily photographed the sad procession from the local community center—where they washed the body—to the makeshift grave in a cemetery on the outskirts of town.

One night I decided to visit a techno-rock club in one of Istanbul’s ancient cisterns. What a strange sensation it was to enter this old-world cavern—dark, musty, a little stifling—filled with the pulsating monotonous beat of techno-rock. As I peered through the darkness at women wearing black-framed glasses and men in T-shirts emblazoned with Pepsi logos, all gyrating to the mind-numbing beat as if in a trance, I thought, “What a strange and wonderful city.”

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